Recycling – Behind the scenes!

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Waste is a human concept. The things that are not useful to us are termed as waste. Nature does not recognize waste. It just converts the resources from one form to another. Such is the concept of recycling. It is the conversion of unwanted materials to a desirable form. Many items can be recycled including paper, glass, plastic, textile, metal, and electronics. But this is common knowledge. What is not widely known, though, is how it happens.

The How in recycling:

  • The first thing that comes to our minds is paper. Even after coming so far in the digital world, the paper has held its value. We have all heard about the traditional way of producing the paper – chopping down trees. The scale of deforestation is so large that today there is practically nothing to ax down. The alternative to paper is, therefore, imperative. This alternative is recycling.  That led to a serious problem of deforestation and recycling of paper was introduced as its prevention.

How is paper recycled?

First of all, the paper is collected from trash from homes and offices. Then the document is arranged according to various criteria such as its type, how heavy the paper is, what was it used for, the color and if it was recycled previously. The next step in the process is to move the accumulated paper through a chemical and water bath that turns the paper into a fibrous and soupy substance. Then the unwanted things, such as staple pins and glue are removed from the freshly created pulp with the help of magnets, gravity, and filters. The ink from the paper is either removed by a chemical wash or skimmed off by blowing ink to the surface. The pulp, then, is sprayed upon and rolled into flat sheets after which they are pressed and dried. These giant sheets of paper are then cut into various sizes and shipped off for consumer use.

 

  • The next thing we will talk about is a recycling of Glass. There are two ways in which a glass can be recycled. First, the glass bottles. Companies collect glass back from their customers and then thoroughly wash and disinfectant them before reusing them and sent back to the customers for use. The second type of recycling involves companies collecting and sorting glass based on its color. The sorted glass is then chopped into fine bits known as ‘cullet,’ properly filtered to remove any impurities using lasers and magnets. It is then melted and reformed into new glass. The only issue with recycling glass is that not all types of glass can be recycled. The only glass used in jars and bottles can be recycled. The glass in windows or light bulbs cannot be recycled due to its nature and extremely high costs of recycling.
  • Steel. Steel is considered to be easy to recover. Steel is used in a wide array of products these days, mostly in cars and construction appliances. The steel obtained for recycling is first sorted through to remove any unwanted materials that are then passed through a giant shredder that turns it into tiny pieces. These are then melted in a furnace and turned into liquid steel. The liquid steel is then molded and shaped in the form of sheets or coils and shipped to other manufacturing companies. The US government has a rule that states that at least 25% of all steel should be manufactured by recycling old steel.
  • Plastics. As we all know, plastics pose a serious threat to our environment. Because it is so very cheap to produce and its non-biodegradable nature, plastics make a hard time cleaning up. The only way to get rid of unused and unwanted plastics is to recycle. To recycle plastics, first different types of plastics are sorted according to the colors. Then it is filtered and sifted through to remove contaminants. The sorted plastics are then chopped and melted to form pellets or extruded to make fibers. The obtained materials can then be used in construction or to make molded furniture or insulation.
  • Aluminum Cans. Aluminum cans are widely used to store beverages. Aluminum itself is created from the mineral bauxite. The mining of bauxite and the refining process itself has its detrimental effects on the environment. On the other hand, recycling of aluminum cans saves 95 percent of the total energy required to produce a new can. In the process of recycling, aluminum cans are cut into pieces and then heated in a furnace to get rid of the paint on the body of the can. The liquid metal is then treated and filtered and then poured into a cast called ingots after which they are rolled to make sheets and then finally turn into cans again.
  • Electronics. Recycling electronics aren’t as cheap as other recycling products. The sole reason being that it is a labor-intensive process. It takes a lot of time and effort to separate out different components of the equipment plus it costs the companies more to recycle such products. There is also a variety of toxic materials present in the elements such as mercury and lead that pose their hazards to health and the environment. However, more companies are cropping up the expertise in recycling electronic waste also known as e-waste for a fee.

 Recycling is considered to be the best way to deal with environmental problems caused by garbage and along with its promise of cost savings in some aspects, it has gained worldwide acceptance. There exist several criticisms against recycling.

  • Some people believe that recycling creates more problems than it is supposed to solve. It is argued that the process of creating something useful for something old creates pollution and uses energy.
  • “There isn’t any garbage problem in the world” is another belief among critics. According to them, there are plenty of landfill spaces available and landfills are completely safe.
  • Some people feel that recycling gives us a false sense of security. It has its environmental impact and hence provides us with only a minor improvement over landfills and incineration of garbage. It also makes people feel that it is alright to buy environment harmful products as it will be taken care of by recycling.

Even though some arguments raised by the critics cannot be undermined, recycling is still beneficial over filling up valleys with garbage and provide clear benefits over energy used, natural resources consumed and pollutants released.

As the world progresses, more efficient and greener ways of recycling products are being discovered. We can also play our part by supporting and practicing recycling. So, before you decide to throw anything out, wait and think if there is any way in which it could be re-used. Recycle and Go Green!

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